Abiopep, the Murcian biotechnology and plant health company - a spin-off that emerged in 2013 from CEBAS (Center for Soil Science and Applied Biology of Segura) - focused on the identification and elimination of some of the pathogens that affect strategic crops in the Region- is currently participating in two projects integrated into Horizon 2020, the largest research and innovation program in the European Union with a budget of almost 80,000 million euro.
The goal of the first project, Veg-Adapt, is to find agricultural crops in the Mediterranean that have characteristics that can help mitigate the effects of climate change. Specifically, the team from Murcia focuses its efforts on traditional melon varieties that can be more resilient to lack of water, salinity conditions, and high temperatures that can favor combinations and help improve varieties in the future.
The second project, Inextvir, is focused on research excellence and the training of brilliant young scientists. Through it, Murcian researchers are trained and carry out their work in the United Kingdom, France, Slovenia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Reciprocally, in Espinardo, a young Moroccan doctoral student works with the Abiopep team in the analysis of viromes, i.e. determining and gathering knowledge about all the virus populations that exist in certain crops of economic importance at the continental level, in this case, focused on tomato, melon, and lettuce crops.
"We have two functions. The first is to identify and sequence potential emerging pathogens because we need to know our enemy to fight it, which is our second job," stated Yolanda Hernando, the managing director of this company. "If you are the first to detect them, you will be the first to develop a program of control strategies," he added. The researchers use molecular tools to identify cultivation areas with virus-compatible symptoms. They also analyze the weeds and flora in nearby areas that can act as reservoirs, as well as the transmission routes.
As a result of this work, Abiopep has already managed to patent in Spain a 'vaccine' for the sweet cucumber mosaic virus, one of the most problematic pathogens in intensive tomato crops.